Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Posts about Chris Kluwe

Vikings make it official: Punter Chris Kluwe has been cut

Posted by: Updated: May 6, 2013 - 12:05 PM
It’s now official. The Vikings have cut punter Chris Kluwe.
The 31-year-old was given the news Monday morning at Winter Park during a meeting with General Manager Rick Spielman. Kluwe had been anticipating the move, one that became transparent April 27 when the team used a fifth-round draft pick on UCLA punter Jeff Locke.
Locke participated in the team’s three-day rookie mini-camp over the weekend and fared well enough for the Vikings to feel totally secure in selecting him. And that meant kicking the door open and sending Kluwe on his way.
This morning, on his Twitter account (@ChrisWarcraft), Kluwe wrote: “Thank you to all the fans, my teammates, and the Wilf family for the past 8.5 years. I wouldn't have traded it for anything.
In eight years with the Vikings, Kluwe launched 623 regular season punts, averaging 44.4 yards per punt with a 37.3-yard net. Last season, he averaged 45.0 yards per punt with a career-best 39.7-yard net. Kluwe was inconsistent at times but still had a productive campaign overall.
Still, the Vikings wanted a change in direction, something that first became obvious in January when Spielman signed punter T.J. Conley as a street free agent to come in and push Kluwe.
Upon drafting Locke, Conley was promptly let go. And it was widely believed Kluwe would be soon to follow. On Monday, he received his pink slip and will now be free to seek work elsewhere.
Kluwe’s release will not come without some controversy. The veteran punter has raised his profile in recent years by speaking out on political and social issues, most notably taking a firm stance in support of gay rights and marriage equality.
In the past year, Kluwe has appeared across many platforms expressing his opinion. He made TV appearances on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” and NBC’s “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to speak out on behalf of gay rights. Kluwe was also featured on the cover of the October issue of Out, a popular magazine that describes itself as “a gay and lesbian perspective on style, entertainment, fashion, the arts, politics, culture, and the world at large.
Kluwe’s outspoken opinions have also frequently been published on Deadspin.com.
With those extracurricular activities, cynics will ask whether the Vikings’ releasing of Kluwe is tied entirely to football ability or simply a way of ridding the organization of a player who had grown too outspoken on hot-button issues. After drafting Locke, Spielman insisted he was simply trying to upgrade the team’s special teams and that he did not take issue with any of Kluwe’s opinions.
“It has nothing to do with anything Chris Kluwe is off the field,” the GM said. “When we’re making decisions, we’re purely making them trying to bring in the best competition possible regardless of position. ... This was just another normal personnel move. It had nothing to do with Chris Kluwe’s off-field concerns, I have no issues if Chris Kluwe wants to express his opinion. That’s his right, that’s his freedom of speech. This is just a football decision to bring in a guy to come in to compete.
The Vikings’ most recent football decision now hands the punting and holding duties over to Locke as Kluwe ventures back out to seek work elsewhere in the league.
He is hoping to catch on somewhere, certain he still has plenty left in the tank. But if and when Kluwe lands with a new team, he isn't likely to keep his opinions to himself.
As he said in an interview with the Star Tribune's Chip Scoggins last week: "I’ve had guys talk to me. They’re not going to put stuff out there just because they know in the NFL the upright nail generally gets hammered down. There’s a lot of very smart guys in the NFL. But you never hear about them because they take care of business and then go home. You hear about the dumb guys because they go out and get arrested. Everyone looks at it like, oh, the NFL is filled with all these dumb, knuckle-dragging guys who get in trouble all the time. No, that’s the people you hear about. There are so many more people who are actually interesting and fascinating." 
Kluwe finishes his Vikings tenure as the leader in career punting average, with his 44.4 yards per kick ranking ahead of both Harry Newsome (43.8 yards from 1990 to 1993) and Mitch Berger (43.5, 1996-2001). Kluwe also had a franchise-record 198 punts downed inside the 20.

Here's Chris Kluwe from his appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" :

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

 Here's Kluwe on "The Colbert Report":

 

Vikings sign DE Lawrence Jackson, CB Jacob Lacey

Posted by: Updated: April 30, 2013 - 8:49 AM

Defensive end Lawrence Jackson and cornerback Jacob Lacey are now officially Minnesota Vikings. The team announced the signing of both veterans Monday morning, adding additional depth and reinforcement to their defense.

Jackson agreed to his contract with the Vikings in the middle of last week with the deal finalized today. He comes to the Twin Cities following a three-year stop in Detroit, where he played 37 games as a back-up end. Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman had familiarity with Jackson from within the division and saw an opportunity to find another pass-rushing option as the Vikings head into the 2013 season with the team's top three ends -- Jared Allen, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen -- all in the final year of their contracts.

Spielman said on Friday that Jackson was given a one-year deal, which has been the organization's m.o. the past two offseasons with many of their second-tier free agent signings. That gives the Vikings a low-risk opportunity to look at Jackson as a pass rusher in 2013 as they then begin to decide what to do up front going forward with so much uncertainty surrounding the futures of Allen, Griffen and Robison.

Jackson, originally a first-round pick by Seattle in 2008, made 24 starts in his first two NFL seasons with the Seahawks. He has 19.5 career sacks to go along with 141 tackles. He was traded to Detroit in the summer of 2010 in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick.

Lacey, meanwhile, also arrives from Detroit where he made nine starts last season, recording 36 tackles and a Week 11 interception of Aaron Rodgers.

Lacey began his career in Indianapolis, signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent following the 2009 draft. He spent three years there working with secondary coach Alan Williams, who is now entering his second season as the Vikings defensive coordinator.

As we noted this morning, the Vikings have been searching for solutions at slot corner since releasing Antoine Winfield last month and failing to re-sign him. Lacey may now find his opening to make a bid for that role.

Etc.

-- The Vikings released punter T.J. Conley on Monday afternoon, two days after drafting left-footed punter Jeff Locke out of UCLA. Conley was signed in January as a street free agent. He was with the Jets in 2011 but cut before the start of last season and was out of the NFL during the 2012 season.

With Locke selected in the fifth round Saturday, veteran Chris Kluwe is widely figured to be on the ropes as the Vikings eye a new direction at the position.

Vikings take punter in fifth round

Posted by: Kent Youngblood Updated: April 27, 2013 - 2:22 PM

 

With their fifth-round pick -- the 155th overall -- the Vikings took UCLA punter Jeff Locke in a move that seems eerily reminiscent of last year's decision to draft kicker Blair Walsh.

That decision to take Walsh ultimately meant the end of veteran Ryan Longwell's time with the team. Will the decision to take the left-footed Locke mean Chris Kluwe's time with the Vikings is over?

Locke compiled a career 44.23 punting average in his career at UCLA. As a senior he was named first-team all-Pac-12 and was an honorable mention all-America by SI.com while being a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award. He led conference punters with 34 punts inside the 20-yard line (21 of which were downed at or inside the 10) and added 68 touchbacks on 86 kickoffs.

Kluwe is coming off a season in which his 39.7-yard net average was the best in his eight-year career with the team. Kluwe, of course, is also well-known for his very public stances on the issues of the day. Kluwe is due to be paid $1.45 million this upcoming season. 

Update: Adrian Peterson speaks on sports hernia injury, surgery

Posted by: Updated: February 7, 2013 - 4:39 PM

Adrian Peterson's MVP season looks a bit more incredible now that the abdominal injury he played through in December proved serious enough to require surgery.

The Vikings released this statement this morning: Adrian Peterson had a surgical procedure done today by Dr. William Meyers, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Meyers was able to successfully repair Adrian’s abdominal core muscle injury (sports hernia). We expect a speedy recovery with no long-term concerns.

Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards last season, eight short of the NFL record set by Eric Dickerson (2,105 in 1984). He was named the league's MVP on Saturday night in New Orleans, slightly more than a year after having major surgery on his left knee. Peterson was also named the league's offensive player of the year, and was first-team All-Pro.

And ... he played in the Pro Bowl in Hawaii on Jan. 27, although sparingly.

Now, it turns out, Peterson may have been pushing through severe pain for the Vikings' final six regular season games. In an interview Thursday afternoon with ESPN's Josina Anderson, Peterson said he suffered the sports hernia injury some time during the Vikings' 34-24 home win over the Lions on Nov. 11.

"I didn't know the extent I was hurt then," Peterson told ESPN. "I just remember getting twisted up pretty bad in an awkward position. ... "That next day I felt very uncomfortable in my groin and abdominal area. I thought to myself I'll just wait until I recover but I never did."

The Vikings played it safe with Peterson down the stretch of the season, repeatedly holding him out of practice in December and tailoring their approach so that he'd be as healthy as possible for game days.

"I knew I wasn't really practicing at all," Peterson said Thursday. "I wasn't able to lift because of the strain that it would put on those muscles on an upper- or lower-body workout. That was too much. It was mind over matter. It was just about doing what I had to do to push myself every week. My body was sore from the game and the sports hernia every Monday, so I did what I had to do to recover and get my body right.

"I just played through the pain. I ran on adrenaline."

Leading up to the Vikings' 36-22 victory in St. Louis on Dec. 16 -- a game in which Peterson ran for 212 yards -- he went on the injury report with what was being labeled an abdominal injury. Following his explosion against the Rams, Peterson was then listed as having an abdominal/groin issue which he said was "just normal wear and tear. I've been dealing with it the past couple of weeks. I've been doing the things I need to do as far as resting and conditioning and working out. It's all about that push to Sunday. I'll be ready to roll."

In Week 16, against Houston, Peterson carried 25 times for 86 yards. During that game, he said, the pain from the sports hernia reached its maximum.

"That was probably the worse I felt. That was the first time that I really doubted myself and questioned whether I would be able to continue the season. The pain was a 10 on a scale of 10."

Peterson rebounded in the season finale against Green Bay with 199 yards to challenge Dickerson's record and push the Vikings into the playoffs with a thrilling 37-34 win. The Vikings lost to the Packers on Jan. 5 in the wild-card playoff round 24-10 as Peterson had 99 yards rushing.

Recovery time on sports hernia surgery varies, since the seriousness of the injury varies wildly. But Peterson said his post-operative recovery time would be about 3-4 weeks.

Vikings teammate Geoff Schwartz (@GeoffSchwartz76) tweeted Thursday morning: "It's quite amazing. He's a beast. I made it 3 days in camp w/that injury before I needed surgery."

According to sportsmedicine.about.com: The typical sports hernia occurs when the muscle layer of abdominal wall in one specific area becomes thin relative to the other areas. This may result in a tear or strain in one of the abdominal muscles or the fascia of the abdominal wall. When that happens, the underlying internal organs, particularly the intestines, push up against the muscular wall and can cause significant pain. A sports hernia rarely causes any visible bulge in the muscle wall, so it is often overlooked for some time before it is diagnosed. The most common symptom of a sports hernia is a dull, aching pain in the lower abdomen or groin that gradually increases in severity. This pain generally increases with exercise or activities such as running or weight lifting.

At least three other Vikings have had surgery in the past couple of weeks. Defensive end Jared Allen had a torn labrum in his left shoulder repaired, punter Chris Kluwe had a meniscus tear in his left (non-kicking) knee fixed and center John Sullivan had a microfracture procedure on his left knee. All of those players played through their injuries this past season, none missing a game.

Vikings 2013 look ahead: Specialists

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated: January 25, 2013 - 8:19 AM
The Vikings coaching staff and front office are in the process of fully evaluating their roster as they plan for the opening of free agency in March as well as April’s NFL Draft. As General Manager Rick Spielman, head coach Leslie Frazier and their respective staffs put their heads together, the Access Vikings team is doing the same. We are in the middle of delivering snapshot evaluations of every position group. Today, we look at the specialists.
 
SPECIALISTS
 
Get excited: The Vikings have the best place-kicker in football and he just turned 23 three weeks ago. Now, kicking is a crazy, unpredictable facet of football (see: D. Akers 2011 vs. D. Akers 2012), but there’s nothing to suggest that Blair Walsh won’t be confidently kicking footballs as a Viking for the next 10-15 years.
Last year’s sixth-round draft pick made the Pro Bowl and, more impressively, was a runaway winner in All-Pro voting as he shattered numerous rookie, team and league kicking records during a season that was better than anyone, including Walsh, imagined. The kid made 35 of 38 regular-season field goals, set the NFL record for most 50-yard field goals (going 10 for 10) and bombed a team-record 53 kickoff touchbacks.
Walsh was clutch from the second he kicked the game-tying 55-yarder as the fourth quarter expired against Jacksonville in Week 1. Fittingly, he finished the regular season by kicking a last-second 29-yarder to beat the Packers and clinch a playoff berth. Walsh also made his only post-season attempt a week later at Green Bay, so his final total was 36 of 39, or 92.3 percent. When a leg that big can also make 92.3 percent, well, that’s something special.
Vikings fans also should be excited to have Mike Priefer as special teams coach. Respect for his teaching skills, schemes and presence is gaining momentum around the league. That’s why the Bears interviewed him for their head coaching job.
One of the reasons the Vikings took a chance on Walsh was their faith in Priefer. It was Priefer who made the difficult call and suggested it was time to replace Ryan Longwell, a popular and accurate long-time veteran kicker. And it was Priefer who helped Walsh go from a 60-percent kicker as a senior at Georgia to the NFL’s best place-kicker just a year later.
 
Keep an eye on: No one outside of Winter Park saw Ryan Longwell being replaced a year ago at this time. No one outside of Winter Park even thought Longwell needed to be replaced at this time a year ago. So it’s best to keep your eyes open as 31-year-old punter Chris Kluwe enters his ninth season.
That’s not a suggestion that Kluwe needs to be replaced. In fact, the feeling here is the complete opposite.
Although some fans, reporters and even Priefer grew exhausted by Kluwe’s over-exposed persona, the dude can still punt better than anyone else has in team history. He had a few uncharacteristic hiccups and shanks, but, remember, he also had a bit of a bum left knee, which required post-season surgery to repair the meniscus.
Something else critics should remember: His net average (39.7) was a career high. His gross (45.0) was third highest in his career. And not to be overlooked is the roles that he and long snapper Cullen Loeffler played in Walsh’s success.
Kluwe’s outspoken, Twitter-crazed nature suggests there always will be a cause for which he will feel the need to draw attention. But that’s manageable. There are enough hours in the day to do all the necessary things that go into being a good punter and still have about 20 hours left to eat, sleep, play video games and have a life while fighting for gay marriage rights, Ray Guy’s Hall of Fame credentials or who knows what else is around the next corner.
 
Reason for worry: The kick and punt return positions aren’t necessarily a worry. In fact, Marcus Sherels provides the opposite of worry. He’s a comfortable fallback plan at both spots. Having him is having a sense of relief that the ball isn’t going to pop loose near the goal line on a kickoff or hit the ground and roll 25 more yards on a punt.
However, the cost of that comfort is a low percentage of big plays in the return game. They aren’t impossible, of course. The guy did return a punt 77 yards for a touchdown at Detroit. But he’s never going to be a threat like Percy Harvin.
Harvin is the one to worry about here. He’s one of the best kick returners in the league. It would be a shame to deny the team the benefits of that incredible talent, but it’s something the coaches and front office will no doubt worry more about now that they’ve seen Harvin’s health last only nine games.
Harvin wasn’t injured on a kickoff return. But the wear and tear of extra touches – particularly ones that come on the most violent play in football – can’t be dismissed when the guy taking the beating is the second-best player on the team.
Replacing Harvin on kickoffs would be much easier if the Vikings found an electric game-breaker to replace him. Even better would be a replacement who also excelled at punt returns.
What are the chances of that happening when there are so many other needs with higher priority status? Not great. After all, the Vikings have a young, comfortable Plan B.

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